Monday, July 19, 2010

Rewarding Summer

Disclaimer: I will try my best to be as cheesy-free and hallmark moment-free as possible.

I don’t even know where to begin. It is currently Monday, July 19, and I am sitting once again in my own bed, in my own room, in my own house, in Hercules, California. I can hardly believe it. Yesterday was such a blur, being the first full day back home. At first, I’m sorry to say that I didn’t even attempt talking with my family, interacting with anyone, or exploring the house. I found myself going to my room and going on facebook. Yes, this doesn’t sound like me, but first off, let me just say that I finally got a facebook about a week before leaving for Cornell. My reason?

Only to stay in contact with whomever I will make friends with in Cornell, for I suspected I will make a few. But never did I think that they will be so amazing, or so many. I remember sitting in Andrew Gonzales’s/or was it Alex’s room in Mary Donlon, saying, ‘I really want to have 200 friends on facebook. Immediately, Jordan Ng, Andrew’s roommate, said, “here, I’ll add you.” And there, I had 200 friends. Now I have about 270 friends, and everyone in between were a result of my friendships in Cornell. I think that says something, especially since there were 80 kids in my class, some of which I’m sorry to say I barely spoke a word to, but the vast majority of which I will stay friends with for a long time.

To get back to yesterday, and the brief moments on Saturday, I found myself going back to what I have done for the past three weeks. I couldn’t stay away from my friends and anything Cornell related. I looked over my material, my assignment, and my group project. I felt like I should be in Cornell doing something, going to class, or working on an assignment. I then realized what a lasting experience it’s been that really affected me. Not to say that I ignored my family, I now sit comfortably and socially among my family members, whom I missed greatly. It seems that everything is back to normal now, being back in my house. I’ve just recently completely unpacked, and I’m ready to settle back in. However, I find myself trying to get in contact with all my new friends in whatever way I can. It will take a few days, but I will really miss Cornell. Why?

Let us go back a little over a year from now. I am a sophomore and I decide to apply for the Ivy League Connection. I am not so fortunate this year, as there was no available spot for me. I am now a junior, and I decide to give it another shot. I go through the interview again, thinking I screwed up again, but lo and behold, I was asked to stay behind, as I was chosen, along with Beilul and Jacky, to attend Cornell University this summer.

Eight months ago this whole shebang started, and now it has ended, well, to a point. I cannot believe we have survived this rigorous process, not to mention the college-level course. Honestly, during the school year, going through this process, I wondered what I got myself in to. Was I really capable of going to one of the top schools in the world, not to mention enrolling in the world-renowned class of hotel management, taught by Reneta and Mark McCarthy? I can NOW proudly say, yes. There were times when I thought to myself, “Why do this to yourself over the summer? When you could just stay home and do nothing again?” That was exactly the problem. I didn’t want to stay home and waste away another summer. I wanted to challenge myself, to experience something new, and to see what college life was like. Going to Cornell University for three weeks, I got what I wanted and more. I not only met my expectations, but I also exceeded them, a rule I learned in the hospitality business was called “the double platinum rule.”

I remember the first day of class. I was so nervous and unprepared for what was to come. I walked with a strange group of people for what seemed like an eternity from our dorm, Mary Donlon Hall, to the Statler building. The building was so unfamiliar and I’ve never been in this environment before. Class was a whole different story. There were 80 people from all over the world in one class, and everyone seemed to know EVERYTHING about the hotel industry. They were ALL well-to-do students with the wealthiest parents in the world who owned hotels throughout the world. Some had parents with hotels in Africa and one student was even the daughter of the owner or manager of Starwood. Everyone raised their hands and had all the answers to every question, while I sat there clueless listening to Reneta having back-and-forth conversations with students about managing a hotel. I was confounded and thought to myself, “what am I doing here?”

The first week was probably the toughest week ever. I was so lost most of the time, although I had a rough idea of the subject matter. The whole experience was very bipolar for me. There were times when I was so frustrated that I just stared at the computer and wanted to punch it. I even left the lab and called my mom to talk to her. She re-assured me that everything would be fine and that I shouldn’t worry too much about it. I felt much better after that and after finishing my assignment that day. It was all temporary. There were times when I felt on top of the world, after doing exceptionally well on a quiz or on my company presentation. And then I felt miserable again, for lack of understanding something as quickly as the others.

My solace had to be during the weekends, when we could all just let loose and enjoy ourselves with the mothering Ms. Kaplan, who I have to say, is the coolest and hippest chaperone ever. I had many firsts on the weekends and just being in Cornell in general. It was the first time that I had breakfast on a boat ride on a lake, the first time I went canoeing, the first time I was on my own and managed my time by myself, and the first time I’ve been this long by myself away from my family.

By the end of the second week, I felt so much more comfortable in Cornell. I knew my way around, I understood the class structure and what we were expected of doing, and I had many new friends to talk to. My greatest advantage and what kept me comfortable was all the people that I knew and all the people that I met. I speak truthfully and respectfully about every single person. I honestly could not ask for a better group of people to spend three weeks with. It was so incredible, I was friends with everyone in this group and we were all one big happy family. We all hung out together and we were closer than ever over these three weeks. There is not a single person who stood out of the group or I didn’t like.

Andrew Gonzales: He was my roommate in the Sheraton Hotel and is a very close friend. We talked late at night and we laughed about silly things. He is honest, extremely comical, and hard-working. He probably put the most smiles on my face. He always lightened the mood. I will never forget him.

Andrew Woo: I didn’t know Andrew very well in the beginning, but he was my roommate in the Hilton Hotel, and we also got to talk a lot. He is very calm, intelligent, soft-spoken, and ambitious. He was a joy to have around and will go far. He had the perfect balance between fun and work. I will never forget him.

Alex Elms: Let’s admit it; everyone was envious of Alex for being so far ahead in scheduling events. I never thought I’d get to know him, but I did. He is a great person, very mature beyond his years, and extremely dedicated. We enjoyed bowling, playing pool together, and talking together. I will never forget him.

Dyana So: I had the honor of knowing Dyana fairly earlier than others. I greatly enjoyed talking to her during the dinners and will never forget our conversation on BART. She is the most talented, exciting, and outgoing girl I know, not to mention insanely smart. She always took up an opportunity to do something new. I will never forget her.

Beilul Naizghi: When I first met Beilul during the interviews, I thought she was the most ambitious sophomores I ever met. Off the bat, I remember her saying, “I’m going to be the principal of Hercules.” I have no doubt she will. I love seeing her confidence in her work and even when she walks, although she might not notice. She is very authentic, endearing, and charismatic. I will never forget her.

Jacky Lares: The person I have known the longest, Jacky is incomparable to anyone else. She’s always been so very gregarious, friendly, and open. She always looked to make new friends and always had the right answer to everything. “I’ll just GPS it” was her catchphrase, because I have no doubt she will turn every right direction in life. I will never forget her.

Sewellyn Kaplan: Being with Ms. Kaplan in the car most of the first week out, I really got to know her well. She was more than our guardian who we met up with on weekends or whenever we needed something, she was our friend. I can’t remember laughing more or having more meaningful conversations than with any other adult. She is charming, witty, shrewd, caring, and nurturing. I will never forget her.

I have made many friends from all over the world, including Forrest from Singapore, Jordan from Texas, Sagar from India, Chris from New Jersey, Louis from France, and Veronica from California. I believe they will be long-time friends.

Lastly, I would like to thank Mr. Ramsey, Ms. Kronenberg and Don Gosney for making this all possible, for seriously, without them, I wouldn’t even be writing this, or reflecting upon what is arguably the best summer ever. They really opened my eyes to college, because being in Cornell really made me think, “Do I know what college I want to go to?” and “I really want to explore other colleges now.” Meaning I want to spend more weeks at more colleges to see if they can potentially be my future school.
I learned I can rise to a challenge and I really want to say that I gained more confidence in myself.

I feel like I can talk to any adult now and have an intelligent conversation. I learned how important it was to manage your time because in Cornell it seemed like we had to be somewhere every 30 minutes. I feel like I'm repeating myself because these were words similar to what I said doing our old-fashioned and intensely personal Graduation Ceremony. I can't believe that Mark and Reneta chose me to speak in front of the class, not to mention parents, families, and the TA's. I've never spoken in front of a larger group of people, and I'm very proud of myself. I feel somewhat comfortable looking back at the tape because I was comfortable speaking in front of everyeon. I really enjoyed our ceremony. The TA's threw us a little PowerPoint Presentation, with sentimental music and pictures of everyone, from day 1 to the last day. It was very touching, and many students shed a tear, including myself.

I know that a few months ago, I had nothing to offer, but now, I can honestly say I would like to help as much I can to improve the Ivy League Connection in future years. I really think that this is the best group so far, in terms of connection and understanding the program, for we can provide insight and suggestions for the Ivy League Connection. We even thought of possibly being on the panel of interviewers next year, because who better to judge a possible candidate than someone who went through the process and the course. I would like to extend a hand and my generous gratitude again, to Mr. Ramsey, Ms. Kronenberg, Don Gosney, and Ms. Kaplan.


  1. Thanks for being there with me Chris. I admire how kind and a gentlemen you are. I hope that even though we go to separate schools we can meet up during the school year like good old buddies.

  2. Chris, I can't wait for team Kaplan's reunion...We had too much fun together at times, and it was good to have a sleeping partner in crime

  3. Chris-
    You really will be able to do anything you want in your life. you have the very rare gift of being able to remain true to your true self regardless of what surrounds you. And we all love that quality. What a treat for me to get to know you! I am eager to follow your college career.
    Ms. K

  4. Wow! A terrific reflection. I knew you'd like Ms. Kaplan, she's a great friend of mine as well.

  5. Chris,

    First of all, thanks for the extremely kind words. I personally felt that we didn't spend enough time together over the entire three weeks. I really wish we could have had more days like the one Beilul, you and I spent at the Ithaca Mall. I know we will continue to be friends and I hope we can get together in the coming weeks to rehash our Cornell experience!